South Africa opt for practice in stalemate

Somerset 249 and 115 for 3 dec (Durston 32*, de Bruyn 9*) drew with South Africa 515 for 3 dec (Amla 172, Kallis 160*) and 215 for 6 dec (McKenzie 63)

South Africa's batsmen gained some valuable time in the middle and their bowlers enjoyed another useful work-out, as the tour match against Somerset drifted to stalemate on a soporific final day at Taunton. Neil McKenzie atoned for his first-innings duck with a composed 63, while the spinner, Paul Harris, pounded an entertaining 47-ball fifty, his second first-class half-century. The only South African who really missed out over the three days was Mark Boucher, who was bowled in the third over of the day for 7 by a beauty from Steffan Jones that plucked out his off stump.
After resuming on 56 for 1 overnight, South Africa eventually declared on 215 for 6, 45 minutes after the lunch break. In the hour that was available before tea, Morne Morkel took his fourth wicket of the match when Neil Edwards pushed hard outside off and was comfortably taken by McKenzie at second slip, but his first five-over spell went for 41 runs, largely thanks to Arul Suppiah, who batted with great freedom until he was caught at short cover off Harris for 41. Suppiah added 46 for the second wicket with James Hildreth, who swatted Makhaya Ntini over midwicket, for six, but then chased a wide one from Andre Nel to be caught behind for 16.

With nothing at stake in the game, both sides were content to go through the motions, and a decent smattering of a crowd was equally content to bask in the warmth of the hottest day of the year so far. McKenzie was particularly keen to make his chance for crease occupation count. He resumed on 37 not out overnight, and it took him 72 minutes to pick off his first boundary of the day, a straight drive off Suppiah that took him to 48. Shortly afterwards he brought up his half-century from 80 balls with seven fours, as he and AB de Villiers settled in for a 74-run stand for the third wicket.

De Villiers, who made an attractive 47 not out in the first innings, was the most fluent of the pair, although he also enjoyed a moment or two of good fortune as Somerset's fielding became understandably ragged. On 20, he miscued a pull and lobbed a tantalising chance over the head of the keeper, Craig Kieswetter, and 17 runs later he was dropped by Andrew Caddick at mid-on, who compounded the misery of his spinner, Michael Munday, by flinging the very next delivery clean over the keeper's head for four overthrows.

De Villiers took that as his cue to step up the tempo, and Munday was sent sprawling in the covers as he drove Suppiah handsomely to the pavilion boundary. One ball later, however, he tried a similar shot but picked out Mark Turner's midriff at short cover to fall for 48 from 89 balls. With lunch approaching, McKenzie contrived to flat-bat a full-toss from Munday down the throat of Zander de Bruyn at deep backward square-leg, and straight after the break, Morkel clipped Suppiah off his toes, only to be run out by Turner's direct hit from square leg.

Suppiah, who was the pick of the Somerset attack, bowled Ashwell Prince off the inside-edge for 21 to hasten the declaration, which followed as soon as Harris had completed his fifty. His innings was the undoubted highlight of an underwhelming day's play, as he attacked from the word go with seven fours and two sixes in his innings, one of which landed in the hospitality boxes at deep midwicket.

Somerset went to tea on 76 for 2 with the draw all but secured. Suppiah's dismissal raised the brief prospect of a wobbly final session, especially with a hint of rain and cloud cover in the air, but Wes Durston resisted gamely for the second time in the match, to finish unbeaten on 32, with Zander de Bruyn alongside him on 9. South Africa, however, were unperturbed by the lack of result after a useful three-day workout. "I think we got everything we wanted out of the game," said South Africa's coach, Mickey Arthur. "In fact I don't think we could have scripted it better."

Somerset 4th innings Partnerships

1st16AV SuppiahNJ Edwards
2nd46AV SuppiahJC Hildreth
3rd30WJ DurstonAV Suppiah
4th23Z de BruynWJ Durston